Microsoft Updates Encarta to Include 1915 GenocideBy Richard Kloian

Microsoft has released an online update to its Encarta Reference Library 2002 and its Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2002–believed to have the world’s largest circulation of any encyclopedia–that includes an extensive 3,000 word entry on the modern history of Armenia–with a special focus on the Armenian Genocide.

It was nearly a year ago that Microsoft first found itself ensnarled in controversy when The Chronicle of Higher Educationreported in its August 15–2000 issue that the editors of Encarta–after receiving complaints from the Turkish Ambassador–had askedtwo scholars–Helen Fein and Ronald Suny–to revise their entries on the Armenian Genocide to include the "other side of the story." The Turkish Embassy also urged Encarta to remove the term "genocide" from its entry on Armenia.

The issue escalated after Pacifica Radio aired the program "Did the Turkish government try to write the Armenian genocide out of history books?" on its nationwide broadcast of Democracy Now!.On the 40 minute segment aired coast to coast August 23–2000–Amy Goodman interviewed by phone the nervous senior editor of Encarta who tried to explain how they had reached their decision to "seek the other side of the story." It became apparent that Encarta editors had but scant understanding of the genocide or the full depth of Turkish denial and quickly found themselves ensconced in the center of a spiraling and embarrassing controversy.

They are now to be commended that in the intervening months they have done their homework and in the process they have indeed learned something about the Armenian Genocide. The online update to Encarta Deluxe 2002 reflects this new understanding. The contributor to the new entry is the world’s foremost expert on the genocide–Professor Vahakn Dadrian–who is the Director of Genocide Research at the Zoryan Institute and who has authored a number of critically acclaimed books and monographs on the topic.

This new update to Microsoft’s renowned Encarta Reference Library provides an extensive overview of modern Armenian history. Subdivided into six sections–the subheadings include: Introduction– Background–The Rise of Nationalism–The Young Turk Revolution and Its Consequences; World War I and the Armenian Genocide–and Consequences. The section on the Armenian Genocide occupies the largest part of the entry. The Encarta update outlines and describes succinctly the main conditions and factors that combined to produce the Genocide. Unlike many other encyclopedia articles on the subject–it methodically describes the evolving stages of the Genocide–with particular emphasis on the decisive role of the secretive Young Turk Ittihadist party hierarchy–and the instrumental role of theSpecial Organization–the Teshkilati Mahsusa.

In doing so it points out the deliberate aspects of the extermination process by which–step by step–the victim population was targeted and decimated starting first with the able-bodied Armenian men who were conscripted and gradually liquidated–and subsequently with the thousands of Armenian church and community leaders who were likewise brutally murdered. The three main methods used to conduct the organized mass murders are specifically cited in the article: death by blunt instrumen’s–mass drownings in the Black Sea and the tributaries of the Euphrates; and burning alive in stables–haylofts–and especially dug large pits.

In this connection reference is made to the thousands of criminals who were released from the various prisons of the Empire to form the Teshkilati Mahsusa for massacre duty. The article directs attention to the fact that following the completion of the principal part of the Genocide–the perpetrator Young Turk regime proceeded to carry out a second round of genocidal massacres in the summer of 1916. Several hundred thousand Armenian survivors of the earlier deportations–mainly from Turkey’s western–northwestern–and southwestern provinces–had arrived in the deserts of Mesopotamia.

These wretched survivors–reduced by starvation to skin and bone–were annihilated with brutalities unsurpassed even in Ottoman-Turkish history. Referring to official Ottoman’statistics–released in the Spring of 1919–the article shows that 800,000 Armenia’s were killed outright–and that through subsequent reliable data–especially German’sources–the total number of victims is estimated to be 1.2 million.

The article ends with a commentary on the abortive Turkish courts-martial which–while adequately documenting the mass murder–failed in its task of pursuing retributive justice. Similar abortiveness clouded the ideals of international justice when the victorious Allies–all but ignoring their wartime pledges to theArmenia’s–and their solemn threats to the Ottoman-Turks–proceeded to consign the crime of genocide–perpetrated against the Armenia’s–to oblivion. The ground was thus paved for the new Kemalist regime to all but transform this obliviousness into a culture of intransigent denialism.

The 2002 editions of Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe and Encarta Reference Library 2002 currently being sold in stores include the latest updated entry on the Armenian Genocide. It is also available online on the Microsoft Encarta Deluxe web site but will be included in the 2003 CD-ROM and DVD versions. The update can be downloaded by registered owners of current CD or DVD versions of Encarta Reference Library 2002 and Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2002. Registered owners of Encarta are advised to use the update feature of their current versions which will automatically connect to Microsoft and download the necessary addition. Otherwise–they may visit the Encarta web site and view the article online at: encarta.msn.com.

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